Weird Allergies You've Never Heard Of

By Anna Kleiner | 09/16/2016

Allergies happen when your body's defense system overreacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen; an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans have allergies. We're all familiar with the more common allergens – animal dander, food, pollen, dust, and mold – and you're probably allergic to one or more of them yourself.

What if you were allergic to healthy living? For some people, living a healthy life can be far more challenging than it is for others. Here are just a few of the things that are good for most people—but cause others to break out in hives. 

Exercise

“I can’t work out with you, I’m allergic to exercise.”

Sound familiar? You or a friend may have used this excuse to get out of working out a few times as a joke—but exercise-induced allergies are a real thing. A number of people worldwide suffer from “exercise allergies,” including exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA), a rare disorder that can cause hives, nausea, and wheezing after physical activity.1 The good news is that these allergies can often be successfully treated with antihistamines. 

Sunlight

Vampires may not exist—but sun allergies do. People with photodermatitis,2 also known as sun poisoning, break out in hives or rashes when exposed to sunlight. For some people, this can extend to any kind of light, like the glow of a computer screen, television, or even a candle.  Sadly, those affected are forced to wear long-sleeves, pants, hats, and gloves nearly year-round, including during the summer months.  

Water

Yes, water. The allergy is called aquagenic uritcaria. Like those with photodermatitis and sunlight, people with this allergy get a rash when they come into contact with water. For some people, this can even include their own tears, and in the most extreme cases, they have trouble breathing after drinking water.3 There is no known treatment for this condition, but many sufferers only experience it for a few years—not their entire lives.

Raw fruits and vegetables

For some people, fresh fruits and vegetables are off the menu—no matter how good for you they are. This allergy is called oral allergy syndrome, or fruit pollen syndrome. It isn’t usually as dangerous as peanut or wheat allergies, but sufferers describe it as turning their “mouth on fire”4 when they try to eat raw fruit or vegetables. For some people, it can be enough to take the skin off the fruit—this is where most of the allergens reside. Other people need to cook all fruits and vegetables before they can eat them. 

Cold weather

Cold urticaria, another of the physical urticarias, is very rare, but potentially dangerous. Cold urticaria can be life-threatening if a person is suddenly exposed to extreme cold, such as diving into very cold water. This can cause a massive release of histamine, which can severely drop the blood pressure. Managing this type of allergy centers on prevention — avoiding exposure of large areas of skin to the cold and never swimming alone.

Phones

Ok, not really phones, but the nickel materials found in many cell phones. People are actually allergic to the nickel or cobalt that are found in BlackBerries and flip phones, according to a 2013 study.5 Droids and iPhones did not test positive for nickel or cobalt. Unfortunately, nickel allergies have increased among all age groups in the United States, but luckily the allergy has decreased among younger people in the European Union (thanks to nickel regulation).

Latex

This can be a problem for health care workers who frequently wear latex gloves, but other people can be exposed to latex from their underwear. In a 2006 study,6 20% of nurses tested were found to have to a skin reaction when exposed to latex. Around 2% of the nurses developed respiratory symptoms.

Hair dye

Allergies to hair dye only affect about 1 in every 250,000 people, but when they do occur they can be serious. In 2014, NCIS actress Pauley Perrette suffered a very swollen face after experiencing a reaction to black hair dye. Nearly all hair dyes contain the same chemicals, so if you find you’re allergic to one it may be unsafe to use other types. Always test a product on your skin before doing a full dye-job.

Resources:
[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1371041
[2] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/photodermatitis
[3] http://www.geek.com/science/the-11-weirdest-allergies-in-the-world-1633944/
[4] http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2007/12/11/a-pesky-allergy-to-fruit-and-vegetables
[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3869443/#B26
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2078060/